Disputes about power of attorney are rising

4th February 2015

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Complaints about power of attorney are on the rise, the Financial Ombudsman Service,  revealed.

The ombudsman, a body set up to resolve disputes between financial services companies and their customers,  said that most of the problems customers face when requesting power of attorney could be avoided if bank staff were better trained

It has today launched new advice for bank staff and consumers to help them avoid power of attorney problems.

Complaints about power of attorney have been increasing. Over one million are registered and the ombudsman receives around 30 to 40 new cases every month – often involving highly distressing situations, up from 25-30 last year.

By the time the complaints get to the ombudsman, they are often deeply entrenched and difficult to resolve. Yet most could have been avoided if a few simple rules had been followed.

Examples of typical problems include:

–       banks insisting on original documents instead of taking copies.

–       problems with registering the details of the power of attorney on computer systems or on all the donor’s accounts

–       confusion about the powers given by a power of attorney and the differing types.

–       delays in processing or losing the documents

Chief ombudsman Caroline Wayman said: “Whenever I speak to people about money problems, it’s often issues with power of attorney that provokes one of the strongest reactions.

“At the ombudsman, we’ve seen complaints about power of attorney increase in recent years. This is perhaps inevitable, as people concerned about their ability to manage their finances in the future register them in greater numbers.

“However, it’s apparent that the majority of the complaints we see could have been prevented, had bank staff understood more about how a power of attorney works and the rights they give people.”

“We realised that we could help staff working in bank branches who were often the ones left to struggle to deal with these often distressing situations by themselves. So we’ve created some simple tips for both bank staff and people who hold a power of attorney. Following the advice should help prevent most complaints from happening.

She added:“Of course, some power of attorney problems will continue to be very difficult to sort out. So it’s vital that people know the ombudsman and the Office of the Public Guardian are there to help.

“But in most situations we believe that by simply listening and talking through the options, bank staff can help support their customers and relatives acting for them deal with dementia and other problems affecting independence or mental capacity.”

The Ombudsman said it was working with the Office of the Public Guardian, and organisations like The Alzheimer’s Society to raise awareness of who people can turn to if they need help and support when dealing with a friend or relative who might be losing their mental capacity.

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